Top SUV Off-Road Packages of 2021

Top SUV Off-Road Packages of 2021

Byline: Zalutko Business Services, Inc.


Trends come and go, but North Americans’ love for stylish, adventure-packed SUVs is determined to stick around. The segment experienced explosive growth over the last decade, overtaking traditional passenger cars in popularity – and profitability. According to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc., the light truck category (which includes pickup trucks, SUVs, vans and buses) experienced a record year in 2020, accounting for 79.9% of all auto sales in Canada. 

U.S. data paint a similar picture, leading automakers to release a surge of new products. In its annual Car Wars study, Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates new vehicle launches will nearly double from 40 debuts in 2021 to 77 in 2022, and remain elevated throughout 2024. Unsurprisingly, crossovers, SUVs and pickups will dominate line-ups. 

Sleek electric and hybrid variants will make their mainstream debut during this period; however, consumer preference remains fixed on off-road vehicles that look as sharp cruising pavement as they do exploring trails.

Opportunistic automakers, seeking a way to capitalize on nostalgia without compromising fuel economy, have released a flurry of innovative off-road packages, trims and special editions. Below are six of the top candidates for 2021.


Jeep Trailhawk Treatment

Most thoughts immediately jump to the Jeep Wrangler when discussing off-road vehicles, and rightfully so. Even in stock form, the boxy SUV is designed to conquer rough terrain while pushing the low growl of adventurous freedom out its exhaust pipe. Indeed, the 2021 model year promises two new impressive powertrains: a 470-hp 6.4L V8 HEMI in the new Rubicon 392, and a 350-hp 2.0L Turbo PHEV mated to a 17-kWh battery pack in the new hybrid 4xe. Both models have garnered applause from Jeep fans.

However, not all shoppers enticed by the potency of a Jeep badge are ready to adopt social nuances like the Jeep wave. For those seeking a little more power-of-choice, a Trailhawk trim may be in order.

Trailhawk essentially designates a vehicle as “Trail Rated Tough.” Jeep vehicles available with this trim include the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Compass and Renegade. The treatment varies per model but, overall, offers enhanced crawling ratios, water fording, suspension travel and manoeuvrability. All Trailhawk trims also receive off-road wheels and tires, a pre-installed lift kit, full skid plating, red tow hooks and a 4WD system.

For 2021, Trailhawks across the lineup gain more standard features, from a heated steering wheel in the Cherokee to adaptive cruise control in the Compass. Shoppers eyeing the Grand Cherokee may be interested to learn that while the model celebrates its generational change in 2021 by introducing a new three-row variant, the Trailhawk trim is currently only available on the two-row version. That model receives its redesign for 2022, though sales start in late 2021.


Ford Bronco Sasquatch Package

Since the prodigal son has returned to the off-road segment, it (like the Wrangler) is nearly impossible to ignore. Available in both two- and four-door configurations, Ford’s resurrected Bronco flexes serious skill and serves up six ruggedly-curated trims.

According to the automakers, each is designed to complement a specific type of adventure, from mainstream to extreme. However, among all the trim levels, powertrain options and available upgrades, Sasquatch is the add-on package receiving the most attention.

The Sasquatch package adds 35-inch mud-terrain tires wrapped around 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, an electronic transfer case, locking front and rear axles, heavy-duty Bilstein shock absorbers, high-clearance fender flares and a 1.2-inch lift. It is available on every Bronco trim and comes standard on the Wildtrak desert runner-style model. 

Additionally, after months of enthusiasts’ petitioning, Ford has agreed to offer the Sasquatch package with the option of a seven-speed manual transmission. This pairing offers a 94.75:1 maximum crawl ratio.

Off-road excellence comes at a price though. For Canadian customers, the Sasquatch package adds $7,000 to a Bronco’s price tag ($4,500 on the Badlands trim).


Ford Expedition FX4

Traditionally reserved for Ford trucks, the FX4 Off-Road Package was first applied to the Expedition SUV in 2018. The result is something of a suburban sleeper. 

The lumbering seven-seater may look like a classic family hauler, but underneath those FX4 badges hide premium off-road front and rear shocks, an electronic limited-slip rear differential, a two-speed automatic four-wheel drive system, steel skid plates and chrome-plated running boards. 

The 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels receive new designs for 2021, wearing 32-inch all-terrain tires. A standard twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 provides ample output for trail rides and, when equipped with the Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package, offers best-in-class towing of 4,173 kg. Available with or without a 360-degree split view camera, the FX4 package is now offered on XLT and Limited trims. 

Boasting a spacious and well-appointed cabin, with enough cup-holders to rival most minivans, the Ford Expedition FX4 entices customers with a vision of comfortable off-pavement adventures for the whole family. According to Kelly Blue Book, the vehicle delivers on its promises. The company has crowned the Expedition “Best Full-Size SUV” for three years in a row.


Watch for a new off-road Explorer, potentially dubbed Timberline, to join the Ford lineup for 2022. Spy photos indicate styling and mechanical upgrades similar to those of the FX4 package.


Chevrolet Suburban/Tahoe Z71


Both the Chevrolet Suburban and its smaller Tahoe stablemate boast full redesigns for 2021, offering more passenger and cargo room, added advanced technologies and upgraded driving dynamics. 

Thanks to the model’s new full-size truck architecture, customers can enjoy the smooth-riding benefits of a new independent rear suspension and longer wheelbase. Available on the Z71 are Magnetic Ride Control and air springs, allowing drivers to manually adjust the suspension based on driving conditions. The first-in-class Air Ride Adaptive Suspension offers load levelling at all four corners of the vehicle and up to 102 mm of ride-height adjustment. However, adding this capability automatically tacks on the Max Trailering Package and Luxury Package. While both options only add to the vehicles’ off-road abilities, they do affect pricing.

Standard on the Z71 are 20-inch wheels and all-terrain tires, black tubular assist steps, red tow hooks, underbody skid plates and a 4WD system. Both models share the same 355-hp 5.3L V8 engine, now with Dynamic Fuel Management technology which allows the engine to turn cylinders off when driving in situations that do not require full power.

One may need to squint to see the differences between the two models, especially now that Chevy has squeezed 66-percent more cargo space out of the Tahoe. With new chassis systems, fresh interiors and upgraded handling, both full-sizers are working hard to inject a little sophistication into the next family camping trip.


Toyota TRD Pro and Trail Edition Treatments

Similar to Jeep’s Trailhawk designation, Toyota’s venerable TRD Pro label is applied to several vehicles in the automaker’s lineup. Each model sports slightly different features, but all share high-performance off-road shocks, a specially-tuned suspension, black alloy wheels, a unique front grille with “TOYOTA” badging and TRD graphics. Often spotted on Tundra and Toyota trucks, the TRD Pro trim is also available on 4Runner and Sequoia SUVs.

For 2021, the Toyota 4Runner adds standard LED headlights to the collection of safety tech it gained in 2020. TRD Pro customers receive the option of a new Lunar Rock exterior colour, fresh wheels wearing Nitto Terra Grappler tires and updated shocks. The full-size Sequoia, which joined the TRD Pro club in 2020, gets only a fresh coat of paint for the new year, also in the aforementioned gray-green Lunar Rock.

For those who love a limited edition and require less ruggedness than a TRD Pro, Toyota’s new Trail Edition 4Runner may be of interest. The new model adds 17-inch dark gray TRD Off-Road wheels and a Yakima LoadWarrior rooftop cargo basket, as well as a custom sliding cargo tray in the rear which plays host to a custom-made 40-quart cooler. Inside the cabin, the mostly-stylistic upgrades continue with black badging, tan-stitched black seats and all-weather floormats. 

Seeking something smaller? The segment-leading Toyota RAV4 gained a TRD Off-Road trim in 2020. A step below a TRD Pro, the model wears new bumpers, a fresh grille, bigger fender flares and matte-black 18-inch wheels wrapped in Falken Wildpeak A/T tires. As for mechanicals, a special suspension system and user-selectable standard torque-vectoring AWD system lend confidence both on- and off-road.


Land Rover Defender Explorer Package


Breaking tradition with its storied ancestors, the born-again Land Rover Defender reentered the SUV market in 2020. The all-new model still looks the part of an intrepid explorer, despite wearing an aluminum unibody underneath its retro-inspired exterior. 

Permanent AWD and locking differentials ensure the Defender can still venture off-road, while a new fully independent suspension shields occupants from feeling every bump along the way. An adjustable air suspension upgrade, similar to that found in the new Suburban and Tahoe, is available on some models. A 296-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine is standard, with a 395-hp hybrid-assisted turbo inline-six available for upgrade.

Asserting its capability, the Defender also boasts a maximum 291 mm of ground clearance and 900 mm water-fording depth – both surpassing Wrangler Rubicon specifications. To infuse a little overland flavour, customers can add the Explorer Accessory Package. The bundle includes front and rear classic mud flaps, wheel arch protection, a spare wheel cover, side-mounted storage box, Expedition roof rack, raised air intake and matte-black hood decal. 

Not much is new on the Defender for 2021. An expanded lineup now includes “X-Dynamic” trim levels, which are largely appearance-oriented. However, fans of compact off-roaders will be happy to see the new year bring along the two-door “90” body style.

From economy to luxury and compact to full-size, automakers by no means are finished with this segment. In addition to the contenders on this list, Subaru recently announced an off-road oriented “Wilderness” package coming in late 2021, Nissan dropped hints of a possible new Xterra, and Kia showed off several off-road Telluride builds in 2020, hinting that a rugged trim level could be in the works.